Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite

Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite
Anti-submarine/Anti-surface/Search and Rescue
Kaman Aerospace
Number Ordered
First Delivered
October 2003
16 metres
4.09 metres
Weights 6440 kg
Dimensions Rotor diameter: 13.41 metres
Speed 280 kph
830 km
Engines 2 GE-T700-401 gas turbine engines
  • Maximum rate of climb: 631 m/s
  • Maximum height: 3000 metres
Missiles: 2 Kongsberg AGM119 Mk2 Mod 7 'Penguin' (Anti-ship), Torpedoes: 2 Raytheon MK46, Depth Charges: 2 MK11, Guns: 1 MAG58, 7.62mm GSMG

The Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprite was a US designed and built helicopter used for anti-submarine / anti-surface threats and over-the-horizon targeting. Its secondary missions included aero-medical evacuation, search and rescue, personnel and cargo transfer, small boat interdiction, amphibious assault air support, naval gun fire spotting, mine detection and battle damage assessment.  It was originally operated by the US Navy in the 1980s as an upgraded version of the older Kaman SH-2 Seasprite.

In the early 1990s the Royal Australian Navy operated the S-70-B Seahawk from its Adelaide Class frigates which although based on the US Navy Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigate all had extended flight decks to accommodate the Seahawk. The new Anzac Class frigates could operate the Seahawk helicopter, but with a proposed new 1350 tonne offshore patrol vessel, to replace the Fremantle Class patrol boats, the Navy required a smaller helicopter to extend both vessels combat range. 

Requests for tender for 14 of the new helicopter were issued in October 1995 and by March 1996 there were two contenders – the Westland Super Lynx and Kaman Super Seasprite.  Due to budget issues the number to be purchased was reduced to 11.  Linked to the Seasprite program was the procurement of the Kongsberg Penguin Mk 2 missile as the helicopters main weapons system. 

In January 1997 the then Minster for Defence announced the RAN would procure 11 Kaman SH-2G(A)  Super Seasprite’s for use on board the Anzac Class frigate and potentially for the new offshore patrol vessel.  The offshore patrol vessel project was to be a joint Australia/Malaysia activity but Malaysia eventually withdrew from the project in 1997 and soon after the offshore patrol vessel project was cancelled.  It was believed that Project SEA 1411 -  the acquisition of the Super Seasprite would also be cancelled. This was not to be and the first of the upgraded Seasprites arrived in Australia during 2001.

805 Squadron was re-commissioned at Nowra on 28 February 2001 to take possession of the new helicopter.  Crewing of the aircraft was seen as an issue and the normal three person crew of pilot, observer/tactical coordinator and sensor operator was reduced to just two with the last two roles combined and the pilot given additional tasks.

The Seasprite acquisition and introduction into service was plagued with engineering, personnel and political issues.  In 2002 the then Chief of Navy refused to endorse provisional acceptance of the aircraft but this was overturned by the Minister for Defence and eight of the Seasprite’s were provisionally accepted in an interim training helicopter configuration.  Limited training flights commenced in November 2003 with First of Class Flight Trials, on board Anzac Class frigates, commencing in May 2004. 

By late 2004 the Seasprite had been granted an Australian Military Type Certification but this was withdrawn in May 2006 due to concerns with the helicopters automatic flight control system. The Seasprites were grounded. Debate continued within Navy, the Defence Material Organisation and with the Minister for Defence regarding concerns with the airframe and the future of the project. On 25 May 2007 much to the surprise of many the Government announced that the Seasprite Project was to continue.

Less than a year later, and following a change of Government, the project was cancelled on 5 March 2008. 805 Squadron was subsequently decommissioned on 26 June 2008 and the 11 Seasprite aircraft retained by Kaman who later sold eight of them to the New Zealand Defence Force.

Left: Super Sea Sprite departing Sydney Harbour. Right: Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite.
Left: Super Sea Sprite departing Sydney Harbour. Right: Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Seasprite flying over the south coast of New South Wales (Courtesy of ABC).